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Can We Create Another Trudeau Institute?

February 5, 2011 - Ernest Hohmeyer
I was reading the published story in the ADE “Trudeau Will Stay” and based on this article by Chris Knight was relieved to read that Trudeau Institute is “committed to Saranac Lake” according to the Institute’s President, David Woodland.

The natural instinct by many of us is to breathe a sigh of relief and go on our merry way, facing the next crisis that is on the table. Instead, we should take a proactive approach and see if there is a way to partner as a community with not only Trudeau Institute, but some of our other major employers for business development opportunities.

In a series of articles in Harvard Business Review on “Can Entrepreneurs Save the World?” there is a discussion about the “need [for] out-of-the-box thinking, audacious goals and lots of experiments” to combat many of the world’s economic and social problems. One article entitled “A New Alliance for Global Change” by Bill Drayton and Valeria Budnich discusses how “working together, corporations and social entrepreneurs can reshape industries and solve the world’s toughest problems.” There is “a sea of change in the way society’s problems are solved” and that “the time is ripe for collaboration between for-profit businesses and mission-driven individuals and organizations.” The article talks about the “citizen sector” to describe “mission-minded individuals across the globe who are attempting to address critical social needs” and teaming up with business to do so.

One critical need we have in the Adirondacks is to expand our economic base and provide quality job opportunities for our children who are leaving the area at a continued alarming rate.

Locally, there are many examples of the “citizen sector” at work that are attempting to address parts of our economy including Habitat for Humanity, Com-links, the Harrietstown Housing Authority, ANCA, AEDC and the chambers. These have been joined by other grass-roots efforts such as the Green Circle, ARISE, the Community Store and there are many other examples.

Many of the members of these groups are represented by local businesses. They participate mainly however to support the cause of a particular non-profit’s mission and not necessarily as a key focus, on how we can market the region to expand our economic base.

There are three other main players involved in our economy. Non-profit institutions such as Trudeau, for profit businesses mainly made up of small enterprises, and government sponsored organizations like the prisons.

While these different for-profit businesses, non-profit corporations and mission based organizations may meet as part of one of these efforts like a chamber meeting or more informally as part of a mixer, there is no regional effort to partner together on how to attract other businesses like a Trudeau Institute or to help grow other opportunities that may spin off from their work.

In last week’s Adk Biz Today Article, “Opportunity Knocks: Time for the Disrupters?” I talked about how the Adirondacks are in prime position to go after several emerging entrepreneurial opportunities as defined in Entrepreneur magazine including green industries, health care and tourism.

Is it also possible to consider biomedical research and biotechnology? We have a regional destination hospital, Trudeau, Bionique Labs and at one time were home to others. This has been discussed with such efforts as the six northern counties of the North Country Alliance identifying biotechnology as a targeted industry. Efforts by and large failed primarily due for a myriad of reasons. On the other hand niche businesses primarily in the service side of biomedical and biotechnology were identified as possibilities.

Partnership Opportunities? When was the last time we asked the question to our existing major businesses: Are there opportunities we as a community should explore based on what you do or plan to do?

Taking advantage of your existing business resources and working with them to attract opportunities that would help them is often a solid approach for business development.

By working with your existing base of businesses, you have a leg up on identifying the types of businesses that may compliment these existing industries, where they might be located and how to talk to them. Often in these business development strategies local business will serve as an “ambassador.”

When was the last time we brought the CEO’s of our non-profit, for profit and mission based organizations together as a community and asked them: • Is there anything we can do to help expand your business? • Are there opportunities in your field that may be potential business ventures for the community to go after? • If so, are there ways we can partner together?

Last week, I mentioned as an idea to commemorate Small Business Week that takes place in May with a “We Want Your Business Day.” We invite the medical and biomedical industry, tourism businesses and officials, construction, information technology based businesses and others in a series of round-tables to explore how we can market our region to similar businesses.

Would the ADE or local municipalities, the chambers, Paul Smiths, NCCC be willing to host such an event?

There is no doubt that one strategy to help alleviate not only economic but social problems like housing and education is to link the resources of businesses who “offer scale, expertise in operations and financing” with mission based efforts who know how to work with “lower costs, strong social networks, and a deeper understanding of customers and communities.”

In a growing number of communities around the world, business and community groups are actually creating joint ventures to deal with everything from better ambulance service in India to attacking the housing market where one-sixth of the world’s population lives in slums and squatter cities” representing the “potential of a trillion-dollar housing market.”

Time for a New Community Mission: Marketing Our Community for Business Growth We have all the ingredients to bring a diverse set of private, non-profit, and public partners together to expand our existing industries in health care, biomedical research, green industries, tourism and others. These resources combined with the expertise in our second home population and state interest in the Adirondack Park, has the potential to create real partnerships and perhaps even joint ventures with the community.

To do so these businesses and the community need to support a new kind of mission driven effort: marketing our region for quality business growth.

As a community we rise with vigor to crisis and challenges whether it is in fear that we lose a major employer or react to a major development such as Wal-mart. We spend a great deal of time on plans and now need to have the same zeal with marketing those plans. The region has done it before when the Trudeau Sanatorium closed and during other crisis and the results were AMA and NCCC among others.

We can do it again. Trudeau Institute talked about “advancing biomedical research in the region.” Perhaps there are new opportunities to work together. Other communities are certainly doing it and there are examples we can gleam from.

A CEO Leadership Forum of Private, Non-profit, Public and Mission-based Entities? Should we ask the question: is there is an interest in a marketing mission and working together to expand the existing economic base? Perhaps asking that question to our four pillars of economic partners at a local CEO Leadership forum such as discussed above may be one way to do so.

Other ideas may be to start with a simple blog, perhaps even using this column Adk Biz Today, by asking the question: Are there opportunities in your field that may be possible business ventures for the community to go after?

Working with your existing business base is often a solid job creating strategy. Let’s ask our major businesses, be proactive for a change, and not reactive to a crisis.


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